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Have you ever wondered about the top of the St. Louis Civil Courts Building? It was built in 1930, part of an ambitious public works project that also included the construction of Keil Auditorium. Have you ever wondered what inspired the unusual top third of the building? According to this source,

It has a step pyramid on top of a Greek Temple with a pair of griffins at the peak. It houses the law library atop the ten stories of courtrooms. The building combines elements of many divergent styles including Egyptian, Greek and Oriental.

The top of the structure is, indeed, eye-catching. That design was closely based on the tomb of King Mausolus, a provincial governor for the region surrounding Bodrum, Turkey. The original tomb was built in 352 B.C. at Halicarnassus and was eventually recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world. The original structure included 40 12-meter columns. The top of the Civil Courts building includes 32 Ionic columns, each of them 42 feet high and 5 ½ feet in diameter.

The very top of the Civil Courts Building includes two griffins measuring 20 feet long, 12 feet wide and 12 feet tall. Griffins are:

legendary creatures with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and sometimes an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts, and the eagle the king of the birds, by the Middle Ages, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Since classical antiquity, griffins were known for guarding treasures and priceless possessions.

It is believed that the original tomb of King Mausolus was destroyed by an earthquake between the 11th and 15th centuries, after standing for many centuries. A replica of the tomb can be viewed today at Miniatürk, a miniatures park on the north-eastern shore of Golden Horn in Istanbul.


Both photos used with permission. Civil Courts Building photo permission through creative commons attribution license:

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus model photo permission through creative commons.

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